Five Healthy Snacks

snacking.jpgFeeling peckish? I can't make it through the afternoon without a stop to nosh myself. A snack keeps my energy up, quells the noisy rumbling in my stomach, and prevents the onset of insanity when dinnertime rolls around, allowing me to follow through with my cooking plans rather than caving to cravings.

Here are five of my favorite snacking options for when hunger strikes:

Whole-Grain Cereal: Fiber is both nutritious and filling. Cereal, being on the sweet side, can stop a dessert craving in its tracks. Use a kitchen scale to ensure that you are pouring a correct serving size, and use a small bowl so that the portion looks especially satisfying. Top it off with some fat-free milk or yogurt.

Nuts: Nuts are packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. A small handful of walnuts provides more than 90 percent of the omega-3 fatty acids you need daily, and almonds (my favorite!) are a great source of vitamin E. Nuts do have a lot of calories, but small servings pack a satisfying punch.

Cucumber: My mom puts out a bowl of sliced cucumbers for munching with every dinner she serves. Their mild flavor is kid-pleasing, and their high water content helped us fill up without eating too many French fries. A whole cucumber has less than 50 calories, and sliced up, with a little low-fat vinaigrette for dipping, it makes a tasty and big snack.

Popcorn: Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? It also provides decent doses of fiber and protein. Three tablespoons of kernels pops up into four whole cups of the white, fluffy stuff, and without oil, it will only cost you 120 calories. Just pour the kernels and some salt into a paper bag folded tightly shut or into a large, covered, microwave-safe bowl, then heat until you hear two or three seconds between pops.

Large, Whole Fruits: I couldn't make a snack list without mentioning fruit! Fruits such as apples, oranges, and bananas are naturally snack-sized, and their tough skins make them easily portable. Whole fruit packs more fiber than juice, and thus more satisfaction.

Mmm . . . this list has me salivating! Luckily, snacking, when it involves reasonable amounts of healthy foods eaten when you're actually hungry, won't derail your weight-loss or -maintenance plan.

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